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Dominican Republic to join proposed US-Central America trade pact

Channel News Asia

Dominican Republic to join proposed US-Central America trade pact

24 July 2004

WASHINGTON : The Dominican Republic will join a proposed free-trade pact with the United States and five countries of Central America known as CAFTA, US officials said.

Washington had already struck a bilateral free-trade deal with the Dominican Republic on March 15, but the latest agreement would attach the Caribbean country to the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which will be known as DR-CAFTA.

"Adding the ’DR’ to the CAFTA also adds to the compelling economic logic of the CAFTA, by expanding the size of the market covered by the agreement by more than one-third," US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.

"Our DR-CAFTA trading partners make up the second-largest market for US exports in Latin America, behind only Mexico."

A signing ceremony was set for August 5 in Washington with officials of the US and Dominican Republic as well as trade ministers from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

However, the proposal faces an uphill battle in the US Congress, and many observers see little chance the pact will be ratified before the November 2 elections because of concerns about a loss of US jobs resulting from free-trade deals.

US officials point out that 80 percent of DR-CAFTA imports already enter the United States duty-free under the Caribbean Basin Initiative and other programs, and that the free trade agreement would provide "reciprocal access" for US products and services.

- AFP


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